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r H E
U S O N I A N
i OUVENIR OF THE EXHIBITION: 60 YEARS OF LIVING ARCHITECTURE
THE WORK OF
HE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM
CONCERNING THE USONIAN HOUSE:
To soy the house planted by myself on the good earth of the Chicago
prairie as early as 1900, or earlier, was the first truly democratic
expression of our democracy in Architecture would start a con-
troversy with professional addicts who believe Architecture has no
political (therefore no social) significance. So, let's say that the
spirit of democracy — freedom of the individual as an individual —
took hold of the house as it then was, took off the attic and the
porch, pulled out the basement, and made a single spacious, harmo-
nious unit of living room, dining room and kitchen, with appropriate
entry conveniences. The sleeping rooms were convenient to baths
approached in a segregated, separate extended wing and the whole
place was flooded with sunlight from floor to ceiling with glass.
The materials of the outside walls came inside just as appro-
priately and freely as those of the inside walls went outside. Intimate
harmony was thus established not only in the house but with its site.
Came the "Open Plan". The housewife herself thus planned for
became the central figure in her menage and her housewifery a
more charming feature (according to her ability) of her domestic
She was now more hostess "officio", operating in gracious
relation to her own home, instead of being a kitchen-mechanic behind
Nobody need care now how this thing happened. It may not
be important. But if not — what is?
In addition to this new freedom with its implication of fresh
responsibility for the individual homester came a technical recogni-
tion of the new materials and means by which the house was to be
built. Materials were now so used as to bring out their natural beauty
of character. The construction was made suitable to the appropriate
use of machinery — because the machine had already become the
appropriate tool of our civilization. (See essays written by myself
at that time.)
To use our new materials — concrete, steel and glass, and the
old ones — stone and wood — in ways thai were not only expedient
but beautiful was Culture now. So many new forms of treating them
were devised out of the working of a new principle of building.
I called it "organic".
Moreover, the house itself was so proportioned that people
looked well in it as a part of them and their friends looked better
in it than when they were outside it.
Thus a basic change came about in this affair of a culture for the
civilization of these United States. What then took place has since
floundered, flourished and faded under different names by different
architects in an endless procession of expedients.
Here the original comes back to say hello to you afresh and to
see if you recognize it for what it was and still is — a home for our
people in the spirit in which our Democracy was conceived: the
individual integrate and free in an environment of his own, appro-
priate to his circumstances — a life beautiful as he can make it —
with her, of course.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
New York, November 12, 1953
Phoios P. E Gue're'
X X X X X
In this 1,700 sq. ft. exhibition house lie Frank Lloyd Wright's suggestions to the average American who
builds or buys a home — suggestions first made in 1900 when his houses embodying the same principles
first appeared on the prairie outside Chicago. Here for the first time in the Architecture of the West
the human scale in building proportion appeared with the open plan. This two-bedroom "Usonian" house
has a simple in-line plan and is within the reach of many. Thousands of New Yorkers who walked
through it experienced for the first time the design qualities Wright has talked about since the turn of
the century: spaciousness and sunlight, human scale, warmth and solidity, a feeling of shelter, and a
sense of the outdoors.
This house and the pavilion alongside it also represent a long-awaited tribute: the first Wright building
erected in New York City. Part of a comprehensive exhibit of his 60 years of work, it was built next to
the pavilion housing his drawings, models and photographs on the site of Wright's Solomon R.
Guggenheim Museum to be built when exhibit is removed.
Low, closed side of living room unit, as seen from
kitchen, has built-in seat with storage in a deep,
sheltering cove that extends across the entire liv-
ing room facing the fireplace. Clerestory windows
are toward the street and the neighbors, assuring
natural light on all sides of the room whatever the
orientation — and affording privacy. Brick wall at
far end is pierced in natural block pattern.
High, open side of living room, seen from entry,
faces living terrace and view (walled in only be-
cause of New York City limitations). All furniture
is by Wright or influenced by him including the
specially designed spherical black kettle. In charge
of construction: David Henken of Henken Builds,
Inc., a former Wright apprentice, assisted by 14
boys of the Taliesin Fellowship. Wright estimates
this house could be duplicated in the New York
area for about $35,000. Originally it was about
a $15,000 house — fifteen years ago.
Pholos Ezro Sioller
View from terrace looking into living room. Tall
glass doors extend to full height of 12' ceiling,
throwing the big living room wide open to its ter-
race on occasion. Roof overhang is richly pat-
terned with rhythmic openings and the ornamental
dentil bands characteristic of the whole structure;
a place for vines overhead.
Sunlight and a sense of deep space play freely
through the 26'x32' living-dining area, giving it
a sense of great repose and comfort. Interior is
warm in color and alive with deep red texture of
brick, a checkerboard ceiling of red oak plywood,
twinkling accents of light in brass spotlight plates,
repeated in the piano hinges, on tall windows,
and doors, copper fillets on shelves and tables.
Folding screen makes kitchen an admirable part
of the whole living room unit.
Photos Ezra S'olltr
Toll central kitchen, itself planned as a ventilating feature of the
entire living room unit, around a table for assembling of meals,
has a tall view window at left and a skylight above — with built-in
ovens, cabinets and sideboard accommodations.
A glimpse of the long gallery leading from entry to living room and
bedrooms as 34 feet of storage wall alongside wall, a laundry alcove
opposite. Hall lavatory-toilet is convenient to entrance and to living
3'0 El'O S»ol'»r
At the end of this segregation of the bedrooms is the master bedroom,
secure and intimate with its rich wood finishes, dramatic spotlighting,
high windows filtering sunlight through patterned shutters, belonging
to the style of the whole.
Taliesin team: apprentices on construction of
pavilion and Usonian House:
John de Koven Hill, Curtis Besinger, Kenn Lock-
hart, John Geiger, Robin Molny, Kelly Oliver,
Edmund Thomas Casey, Morton Delson, John
Rattenbury, Edward Thurman, James Pfefferkorn,
George Thompson, Herbert De Levie, David
A special thank you for able and timely assist-
ance is due to Clay Irons of Irons and Reynolds
— and to Hicks Nursery of Long Island.
A special compliment is due the splendid co-
operation of Director James Johnson Sweeney
of the Museum and more, well earned by his
bouauet of girl assista nts l ed by Donna Butler.
Last, but not least, comes our genial host, Harry
Guggenheim, Chairman of the Board of the
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT November, 1953
N. B. I want to say that the police in charge of
the affair are gentlemen in the best sense of
the word. Their cooperation has been perfect.
NOTE: This mock-up at the Museum represents
a house costing, at this time, say about thirty
to thirty-five thousand dollars, according to
location. Originally the cost was about fifteen
thousand. Times have changed.
The suggestion has been made that, after the
exhibition, we sell the house at auction to be
removed to any other site and permanently
reestablished. This may be done. F. LL. W.
Photos: P. E Guerrero